Here at YRI, we are determined to build apps and interactives that are relevant, useful, and engaging for young people. So when the youth team was given health as a topic to build on, they took it and ran with it. Our team wanted to develop an app that addressed the lack of accessible mental health support and resources for young people.
“The problem is that young people don’t have an outlet to reflect on and share their emotions with a supportive community.” -Stefan Goldstone
As a team, we got started by surveying other teens and searching for other apps that might be relevant to the platform we wanted to create. One finding from our user-research that surprised us was that young people don’t tend to turn to parents or therapists when they’re having a hard time. We also found, not so much to our surprise, that the available mental health apps out there do not connect well with young people, and offer few alternatives to formal therapy.
Building on our research and ideation process, Youth Radio’s “Mood Ring” is a youth-produced app, created using MIT’s App Inventor, which allows users to track their feelings through emojis, and invites them to reach out for help from their support community when they need it.
So how does it work? The first time you download the app, you will be prompted to enter your name and three supportive contacts that you would prefer to reach out to on your not-so-great days. Keep in mind, nothing is shared without your say-so. Everything is confidential! After entering your info, you can dive straight into recording your day using any combination of nine emojis we’ve built into the app. There’s also a text box for longer journal entries. As an alternative to venting, Mood Ring works like a personal journal and creates a habit for users to log and reflect on how they’re feeling over a two week period. However, this is not Mood Ring’s only purpose. Building off our research with mental health professionals, we’re developing an algorithm that will alert you if you’ve experienced an unrelenting stretch of negative emotions or not enough of a range of feeling. The alert suggests that you reach out to your network for support. Mood Ring will also link to added resources and offer daily affirmations.